US budget put to vote; Colombia restricts Venezuelan migration

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  • U.S. budget deal goes to the House – Senate leaders are hoping to pass a budget before midnight to avoid a government shutdown. Party leaders agreed a two year deal that increases military funding and meets other Republican spending commitments, as well as Democrat demands for more disaster relief and funding to tackle the opioid crisis. The deal faces strong resistance from both parties, with fiscal conservatives worried that it will raise the deficit, and liberals frustrated that it does not address immigration or offer protections to “dreamers.” Congressional minority leader Nancy Pelosi spoke against the deal for a record-breaking eight hours on February 7. President Donald J. Trump tweeted his support for the deal.
    • Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that Deferred Action of Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients who served in the military would be exempt from deportation. Exceptions being those who committed a serious felony, or already had deportation papers signed.
  • Colombia blocks Venezuelan migrants –  With hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans fleeing economic disaster, Colombia announced it will tighten its border in response. The country’s migration authority reported a 62 percent spike in Venezuela migration in the second half of 2017, creating massive levels of homelessness.
    • Meanwhile, Brazil deployed roughly 200 troops on the Venezuela border in order to resettle a select number of families into the country.
  • Twitter reports first quarterly profit – Twitter announced its first ever quarterly profit despite a decline in its revenue in the U.S. The social media company’s share price rose 25 percent on the announcement, which beat expectations and followed a quarter of zero growth. Despite revenue from its U.S. business declining 8 percent, total revenue grew 2 percent due to more effectively targeted adverts and growth elsewhere, particularly in Japan. Despite its high profile, the inability of Twitter, founded in 2006, to make a profit has long puzzled investors. Bloomberg suggests it might be profiting from Facebook’s decision to emphasize social interactions over news-sharing.


  • Australia to apologize to victims of child sex abuse – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will deliver a national apology to victims of child sexual abuse after a five-year inquiry that found tens of thousands of children had been abused in Australian institutions. A royal commission, which finished last December, found that the abuse occurred over decades in churches, schools and sports clubs. The apology will be given later this year. The commission’s report made more than 400 recommendations, including calling on the Catholic Church to overhaul its celibacy rules.
  • North Korea won’t meet U.S. for talks – North Korea will not meet with U.S officials during the Winter Olympics that start formally on February 9, the KCNA news agency reported. U.S. Vice President Mike Pence flies in to South Korea today before the games’ opening ceremony in Pyeongchang. A group of North Korean officials will also attend the ceremony, including the younger sister of leader Kim Jong Un.
  • Myanmar ‘starving, abducting, robbing’ Rohingya – Myanmar authorities have robbed, abducted and deliberately starved the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine state, according to a new report from Amnesty International. The human rights organization said “ethnic cleansing continues” in Myanmar against the Rohingya, 690,000 of whom have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the state’s crackdown on the Muslim-majority Rohingya last August. Evidence suggesting that hundreds of Rohingya had been massacred by Myanmar authorities and buried in mass graves (Al Jazeera) was uncovered by the Associated Press earlier this month.

What we’re reading

  • The Chilean government is undertaking what some nutritionists say is the most ambitious attempt to remake a country’s food culture. In the face of rising rates of obesity, the government is implementing marketing restrictions, mandatory packaging redesigns and labeling rules aimed at changing the habits of the entire country. As this piece in the New York Times lays out, Chile could be a model for how to tackle on a global obesity epidemic that researchers say contributes to four million premature deaths a year. – Charles Anderson
  • A wave of protests in Iran since December against the compulsory wearing of the hijab has led to several arrests and many women removing their head coverings and posting photos on social media. They are protesting against a law requiring all females above the age of puberty to cover their heads. But this “new female civil-disobedience campaign” for the right to choose a hijab or not is exposing a divide in Iran, writes Contributing writer to the New Yorker, Robyn Wright. Lydia Morrish
  • Getting kidnapped by Boko Haram and forced into suicide bombing is not an unusual situation for young women in Nigeria. The BBC follows the story of Falmata, who was one of hundreds of teenagers kidnapped by the Islamist militant group. Rejecting marriage to a soldier, she was strapped to explosives and sent on a mission to death. She remarkably survived to tell the tale. – Lydia Morrish

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